Drew Thurman (5:23 pm)
Yes, the Big Ten has started 0-2 in the bowl season. Yes, Wisconsin embarrassed themselves on national television. And yes, it is easy to be negative about the Buckeyes' chances at this juncture. Last night though, I saw for the first time a glimmer of hope for Ohio State.
In the Valero Alamo Bowl, Northwestern totally outplayed Big 12 representative Missouri. The final score did not indicate this (30-23 in OT), but anyone watching the game knows the Wildcats lost the game on special teams. Offensively and defensively Northwestern looked superior, but a missed field goal, missed extra point, and a punt return from Jeremy Macklin sank the Wildcats. They outgained Missouri on offense, forced more turnovers on defense, and overall looked like a more explosive team. Oh and by the way, they were predicted by many to lose by several touchdowns in this game!
The fact that Northwestern outplayed the Tigers was a positive sign for the Buckeyes. This was the first of three installments in the Big 10 versus the Big 12 bowl battle (Minnesota-Kansas and Ohio State-Texas), and it made me very optimistic.
Some of you may be frowning at my sudden smile or the fact that I have such hope based off of a loss, but I think the facts back me up.
Missouri is a team that has struggled at times this season, but was one of the better teams the Big 12 offered. They did indeed have issues with Texas and Oklahoma (got blown out by both), but they got outplayed by a Northwestern team that Ohio State blew out 45-10 in Evanston. These two were on about the same level in their respective conferences.
Had the Wildcats gotten their butts handed to them by the Tigers, I think there would be reason for fear, but they looked like the better team. Sure it is tough to tell to much from two teams that got blown out by the major powers in their conference, but if nothing else it showed that the Big 10 can play with the Big 12. It seems everyday a new article or feature comes out bashing the Big 10, and it is reassuring to see a team like Northwestern play with an opposing team from the so called "power" conference.
What may be an even better indicator is the Insight Bowl that takes place tomorrow featuring Kansas (7-5) and Minnesota (7-5). If another Big Ten team can play with or better than an equal level opponent from the Big 12, I think Buckeye fans should have a new resolve.
Drew Thurman (10:40 pm)
The matchup that may have more significance than any other in the Fiesta Bowl is the Buckeye offensive line versus the Longhorn defensive line. It seems that Buckeyes will have to put up a large amount of points in this game, but if the offensive line under performs, a Beanie breakaway could be the only big plays coming from Ohio State. They have to protect Pryor in this game, and hopefully this will be the spark needed for what has been a less than stellar passing attack this season. The task will not be easy though!
Texas brings a very quick and hungry starting defensive line to Glendale, that helped provide 21 of the 44 sacks the Longhorns defense had on the year. Maybe even more impressive is the fact that these four have combined for 39 tackles for loss.
Needless to say, they pursue the quarterback well and break up slow developing plays. They also have helped provide great success for the Longhorn linebacking core, which may be the strength of their defense. The Buckeye offensive line needs to challenge the defensive tackles, and make the linebackers fight through blocks to make tackles on Beanie and Pryor. Like I said, this matchup is crucial, and one that Buckeyes have to pull in their favor. So, let's take a look at the young men that make up the Longhorn defensive line:
DE Henry Melton - Melton actually started his career at Texas in the backfield, and has slowly made the transition to defensive end. This is his first year starting for the Longhorns, and is listed at 6'3'' 260 pounds. His statistics on the year are pretty average for a defensive end, posting 26 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and four sacks.
DT Aaron Lewis - Lewis is listed as one of the starters at defensive tackle, but has made very little impact on the season. The 6'4'' 270 senior has only eight tackles, three tackles for loss, and one and half sacks.
DT Roy Miller - Miller is the star defensive tackle for the Longhorns. He is yet another senior on the defensive line, and has great size at 6'2'' 295 pounds. His statistics are impressive for a tackle with 46 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and four and half sacks. He is also a freak in the weight room benching 500 pounds and squating 625 pounds.
DE Brian Orakpo - There is not a single player on the Longhorn defense that probably deserves more respect than Orakpo. He, like Roy Miller, is a beast in the weight room, and it has transfered to the field. On the season he has 40 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, and 10.5 sacks. Whoever is matched up against this 6'4'' 260 pound senior, whether Boone or Browning, has their hands full in this game.
Also to note: DT Lamarr Houston (20 tackles, 7 TFL, and 1.5 sacks)
Drew Thurman (6:39 pm)
1) The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that Boeckman and Pryor may be used in plays together in the Fiesta Bowl. I am not sure why any source close to the program would leak such information, and I am not sure why the Dispatch reported it. Maybe the Buckeyes wanted Texas to have something extra to think about, but I have the feeling there is more to this report than just that! I think this had the ability for success, but why does the media have to know this before the game is played?
2) The Buckeyes got it handed to them on the court today 76-48 by Huggins' West Virginia squad. Lighty's absence hurt against an athletic Moutaineers team, but there was more to the game than just that. The Buckeyes probably aren't yet up to defending a #13 ranking, but they are extremely young. With the Big Ten ahead of them, the Buckeyes need bounce back with much better shooting! The sky is not falling!
3) Lee Corso is over the top on many occasions, but he does speak what is on his mind. I enjoyed what he had to say this afternoon prior to the Meinke Car Care Bowl. When asked about Notre Dame's 49-21 win over Hawaii, Corso had tough words for the Irish program. He made it clear the bar had been lowered in South Bend, and that Irish fans should not be gloating about a 7-6 record, and a bowl victory over a 7-7 Hawaii team. I could not agree more! I am sick of hearing the arrogance from Notre Dame fans, and I am glad that Corso put this win into perspective!
Drew Thurman (12:23 am)
It's official, Rich Rodriguez has made a bowl appearance. Tonight in the Motor City Bowl (featuring Central Michigan and Florida Atlantic), Rodriguez got interviewed in the booth while watching the game. I am personally glad he got a chance to appear in a bowl, and also the opportunity to watch one of the many superior teams from the state of Michigan!
"So here's my lifelong wish
My Ohio State Christmas list
Not for myself, but for a Buckeye Nation in need"
Wish #1 - Hartline, Bauserman, and Washington to stay next season:
The 2009 Buckeyes will have a much different look, and the more experience that can return the better. These three would help with leadership, depth, and overall talent.
Wish #2 - Heisman for Pryor in '09:
Some of you may be scared of the "Heisman curse," but if Pryor can bring in the Heisman it probably means the Buckeyes are in the national championship hunt.
Wish #3 - Boyd, Brown, and Hall to commit:
Tressel has a very good class coming in for '09, but these three young men would make it a great class. Boyd gives the Buckeyes a future star quarterback, Brown could be a starter from day one, and Hall allows the offensive line to become even more talented.
Wish #4 - New offensive coordinator:
We are not trying to be the grinch to Jim Bollman right before Christmas, but his results don't lie. For Christmas we want Tressel to bring someone in to call the plays and to help coach the offensive line better!
Wish #5 - A totally healthy season for Andre Amos and Lawerence Wilson:
Amos and Wilson have had some of the worst luck when it comes to health. No one is sure how good these two can totally be, but a healthy season in 2009 would sure help with depth.
Wish #6 - As much success for "Dick Rod" in the new year, as he had in 2008:
The 3-9 season the Wolverines put together in 2008 sure put a smile on a lot of Buckeye fans faces, especially the 42-7 blow out on November 22nd. Another season like that in 2009 would not disappoint us!
Wish #7 - Mark May to get permanent laryngitis:
Wish #8 - One point for the Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl, for every inch of "Cheeseburger" Charlie's waistline:
With our defense, 50 plus points is enough to beat anyone in the country, including Texas, and we are sure we are underestimating Weis' waist!
Wish #9 - (Drum roll please!) A little national respect:
Santa, we are sick of the Buckeye beatdown coming from ESPiN.
Any other wishes? Merry Christmas!
Drew Thurman (2:51 pm)
If there is one thing that is known about the 2008 Buckeye football team, it is that they love to run the ball. With Beanie Wells, Boom Herron, and Terrelle Pryor in the backfield, the Buckeyes run often with 42 carries a game. Texas on the other hand quietly brings in the second best rushing defense in the country, and will force Tressel and Bollman not be one diminsional.
If there is any good news about this, it is that the Longhorns bring in the 109th ranked passing defense in the country. With the exception of Baylor every team on Texas' schedule saw success through the air, and in only one game did the Longhorn secondary bring in more than one interception. This may be even better news if the Buckeyes had actually been more dynamic through the air this season. With Pryor as the starter, Ohio State only averages 128 passing yards a game.
So I say all of this to set up what I believe will be one of the most crucial matchups of the Fiesta Bowl, the Buckeye wideouts versus the Longhorn secondary. Let's take a look at the individuals that make up the matchup:
The Texas Secondary:
CB Ryan Palmer - Palmer is a senior listed at 5-10, 186 pounds. During the regular season he accumulated 30 tackles, three interceptions, and seven pass break ups. Palmer is in his fifth year with the Longhorns (redshirted), and has played in 48 games in his career.
CB Deon Beasley - Beasley like Palmer is pretty small, listed at 5-10, 175 pounds. He is in his junior season and has seen action since his true freshman year, appearing in 32 games in his career. Both corners for the Longhorns have plenty of experience under their belts. This season he has 38 tackles, three tackles for loss, and six pass break ups.
S Earl Thomas - Thomas is one of the best players on the Longhorn secondary, and is only a redshirt freshman. He is only listed at 5-10, 195 pounds, but has posted some impressive statistics thus far. He has 63 tackles, two interceptions, and 15 pass break ups. Keep your eye on #12 throughout the Fiesta Bowl.
S Blake Gideon - Gideon has the best size of any of the Longhorn starting defensive backs at 6-1, 197 pounds. He is in freshman season, but has stepped up nicely for Texas. He has 59 total tackles, one tackle for loss, and seven pass break ups on the season.
Others to watch - S Christian Scott, CB Curtis Brown, CB Chykie Brown
The Ohio State Wideouts:
Brian Robiskie - Robo has not put together the senior campaign he would have anticipated, but very well may play a bigger role in the Fiesta Bowl than some believe. At 6-2, 200 pounds, he has a large size advantage over the Longhorn secondary, and of course he has great hands. This season he has 37 catches for 419 yards and eight touchdowns.
Brian Hartline - Hartline has been the big play receiver for the Buckeyes this season, and averages 22.8 yards a reception. All together he has 479 yards and four touchdowns on only 21 receptions. At 6-2, size could be an something in Hartline's favor as well.
Dane Sanzenbacher - Due to his toughness and great route running, Sanzenbacher has already become a fan favorite. He spends most of his time in the slot, and has brought in 21 catches for 272 yards and one touchdown. I could very easily see Dane bringing in the most receptions of any of the Buckeye receivers in the Fiesta Bowl, due to the good pass rush from the Longhorn defense.
Ray Small - It's not hard to be frustrated with Small at times, but the Buckeyes need him to step up in this game. His 18 catches for 149 yards on the season are not impressive, but having another big having another big play receiver on the field is important.
Others to watch - DeVier Posey and Lamaar Thomas
Dave and Drew Thurman (9:55 am)
We thought it would be fun to provide everyone a little humor as we approach Christmas. So forget all the prestigious college football awards, forget the ESPY's, and join us for a look at The Silver Bullet Awards 08.
Can't Stay Healthy Award:
Andre Amos (Runner up: Lawerence Wilson)
Jack Tatum (I'll Rip Your Head Off) Award:
Kurt Coleman (Runner up: Jermale Hines)
Look Ma, No Hands Award:
Anderson Russell (Even though he finally got a pick this year!)
Jay Leno Award (Funniest Guy in the Locker Room):
Most Likely to Mess Up The Snap Count Award:
Ben Person (Runner up: Steve Rhering)
Terrance Cody Award (Most Likely to Pass as an SEC Defensive Tackle):
Nadar Abdallah (Runner up: no one!)
AC/DC Award (Looks Most Like a Rock Star):
Jake Ballard (This picture was before his hair grew out!)
The Louis Irizarry Award (Most Time in Tressel's Dog House):
Ray Small (Runner up: Jamario O'Neal)
Dancing With the Stars Award:
Brandon Saine (Who has already mastered dancing in the backfield!)
Superman Award (Most Likely to Leap a Tall Building In a Single Bound):
Hope you all enjoyed the humor! Any awards we left out?
Drew Thurman (3:19 pm)
Jamel Turner announced today that he will be attending Ohio State over Notre Dame, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, LSU, and others. The 6-2 215 pound defensive end is regarded by many as the best player in Ohio in 2010. He follows J.T. Moore as the second commitment in 2010 class, and also the second defensive end prospect. The is a great get for Ohio State, and I welcome Turner to the Buckeye family!
Dave and Drew Thurman (9:56 pm)
Drew: Many times my father and I have discussions (like this one) about Ohio State football, and we would like to start offering these to our readers. We both have much different opinions and views on what is going on, but that should be expected from two generations of Buckeye fans. The issue that obviously seems to be on our minds the most is about the game looming in Glendale on January 5th.
So anyways, dad, I am interested to hear your opinion about the Texas defense. In your preview of the coaches a few days back, you were very complimentary of Will Muschamp and what he is doing. I personally am not sure how much respect I have for their defense at this point, and I know that many fans have very poor opinions of the Big 12 defensively. Thoughts?
Dave: I agree that the Big 12 is an offense first conference, but I think the Texas defense is for real. They improved by about 7 points a game from last year, finishing 20th in the nation at 18.6 ppg. I think when you realize that they played explosive offenses like Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Missouri, and Oklahoma State, those numbers are very impressive. Obviously they didn't play anyone who has the running threat that Beanie and Pryor pose, but the scary thing is that they were 2nd in the NCAA in rush defense, surrendering only 73.6 ypg. The Buckeyes need to establish the run and try to keep the Texas offense off the field, but I don't think it will be easy. Texas may not be as good defensively as USC or Penn State, but I think they are very solid, and that's good enough when you average 44 points a game.
Drew: I think the Texas defense is the beneficiary of the offense jumping out on teams, and they have forced teams to get into a throwing shoot out with them, which has ended ugly. So I agree the Buckeye offense working to keep the Longhorn offense off the field is the best defense. By far the best running attack they saw all year was Oklahoma with Brown and Murray, but the Sooners abandoned the run in that game. They fell into the trap of throwing too much, and those two only rushed the ball 14 times together. The Buckeyes offense will not do this, because they aren't set up to do this. Texas' opponents have averaged 26 carries a game, whereas the Buckeyes average 42 carries a game. More than even Beanie, I think Pryor's rushing ability could hurt the Longhorns. If you watch their defensive ends, they over pursue a lot, and this will give Pryor the green light to run all day. Speaking of Pryor, a lot rests on his shoulders in this game. There are a lot of questions on how he will perform after a month of preparation. What do you think?
Dave: It concerns me that so much is being placed on the back of a freshman, going up against what may well be the most complete team in the nation. But you are right, Pryor needs to be able to run the ball effectively and make good decisions. Turnovers will spell disaster for the Buckeyes. Obviously Pryor is not your average freshman, and the 6 weeks between the last game and the Fiesta Bowl gives him lots of opportunity to watch film and improve upon his weaknesses. I think he will have a good game, but I'm not sure that will be enough. My biggest fear is the OSU coaches panicking if Texas scores some early points. It is imperative that we stick with the game plan of running the ball, picking our spots to throw, and taking time off the clock. If we get in a shootout with Texas it will spell our doom.
Drew: Well first off, I don't think there is anymore pressure on Pryor than there is any other OSU quarterback that has played in a BCS game like this. Quarterback play has haunted the Buckeyes in the last two big games (against LSU and USC), and I think the public knows the importance of that position for the Buckeyes. On top of that his play could determine what the Longhorn defense throws at the Buckeyes. For example, if you remember last year's game against LSU, a lot of things turned when the Buckeyes decided to air it out only. The Tigers finally committed to the blitz, and Boeckman and the Buckeyes didn't do anything to burn that blitz. Pryor has to keep the defense honest with his running ability and the extending of plays. Now unlike LSU, Texas rarely blitzes a corner or saftey; they count on strong defensive end and linebacker play. This is very similar to what Heacock does with the Buckeye defense, so Pryor should be ready for it. So it is imperative that Pryor commits to either getting rid of the ball or running, because holding on to it will allow the DE's and LB's to pin their ears back; the Bucks have to keep them honest.
Dave: Good point on the fact that all OSU QB's face pressue - it goes with the territory. But if a couple of 5th year guys (Smith and Boeckman) couldn't handle it against Flordia and LSU, how well will a first year player deal with it? I guess we'll see if Pryor really does have an "S" on his chest. Texas led the nation in sacks with 44, so Terrelle will have his hands full. I think he could exploit their quick pursuing ends with some QB draws, but he's got to be careful to not hold onto the ball too long or get blindsided by Orakpo. Turnovers killed the Buckeyes against USC and LSU, and they have to take care of the football. The one positive I keep telling myself is that it wasn't until the end of the year that Beanie, Boom, and Pryor were all able to play together, and when they did the Bucks ran the ball exceptionally well. If Beanie is close to healthy that will help, and ball control is definitely the key in this game. It would also be a bonus if Ray Small or Lamaar Thomas could break one on a punt or kickoff. Speaking of that, what's your take on OSU-Texas special teams units?
Drew: To be honest, the Buckeyes have to keep an eye on Jordan Shipley. He has to be the fastest white boy I have ever seen, and has a punt and kick return touchdown on the year. The Buckeyes have been good in coverage all season long, and that needs to continue. On the other hand, Texas is weaker in kick return coverage than punt coverage (giving up 23.4 yards a return). Hopefully this is Lamaar's breakout game, because the Buckeyes have not blown me away in kick returns for the majority of the year. But enough from me on special teams; I think the side of the ball that will have my attention the most will be the Ohio State defense vs. the Texas offense. The Buckeyes have been pretty weak on D in the big games, do you think that continues? Can the Buckeyes handle the spread?
Dave: You just had to mention the spread, didn't you? Nothing strikes fear into me more than a team that can run the spread effectively with good athletes. Heacock has never figured out how to account for every skill position player in this set, and our linebackers who are so good against a more traditional offense, often seem lost when they face the spread. I think we have to do things to be effective: 1) Bring pressure, even though it is frightening to blitz a team sending out a posse of receivers; and 2) Spy on Colt McCoy who actually was the leading rusher for the Longhorns. Texas runs multiple sets and sometimes features two receivers, other times three, and on occasion four. Becuase they hit you with so many looks, and don't always run the spread, it is difficult to game plan for them. I think Heacock has his hands full, and I fear that the Bucks give up a ton of yardage in this game.
Drew: I was originally a little more optimistic about stopping their spread, due to the fact that the Longhorns do not feature a premiere running back, but I have more and more doubts as I watch additional film. McGee, Johnson, and Ogbonnaya all run the ball better that we might give them credit for, and could give the Buckeyes trouble when trying to handle multiple receiver sets. If you remember, Illinois' Jason Ford and Daniel Dufrene ate the Buckeyes up in the same sort of look, and that was with Juice Williams at quarterback, not Colt McCoy.
I say all of this to agree with your statement, we must blitz. If there is anything Heacock should have learned by now, it is that sitting back against the spread is deadly. On the other hand, if the defense comes out with a similar game plan as they did against Penn State, the Buckeyes have a real shot at winning this game. That entire game the defensive line was stellar, the safeties actually had a handle on multiple receiver sets, and the linebackers blitzed a lot. McCoy has too good of an arm to just blitz the down lineman, he needs to have a lot of different blitz packages thrown at him. The defense is the best he will see all year, and I hope they come out looking for blood!
Drew Thurman (10:57 am)
Obviously all of these videos have a Texas bias and show their highlights only, but they do give you an idea of what they do well. Get ready to watch a lot of offense highlights!
1. Texas vs. Missouri
2. Texas vs. Oklahoma
3. Texas vs. Oklahoma State